It could have ended very differently, but Bolton Wanderers' apparent resignation to being relegated from the Premier League with still some time left on the clock pretty much sums up why the English league will be better off without the Trotters as it vies for the largely-subjective title of best league in the world.
At halftime on the final day of the 2011-12 season, Bolton were headed for safety.
Come the 80th minute, though, Bolton had conceded a penalty—and the goal which resulted from it—and QPR had turned the match around to lead 2-1, leaving Bolton back in the drop zone and facing relegation, even if they went on and scored a late winner themselves.
It was then, when all seemed lost, that the Trotters fatally allowed their heads to drop and their minds to accept relegation as fact.
At the Etihad Stadium, QPR conceded twice in injury time and lost the game.
Bolton were therefore relegated by a single point—and would have stayed up at the expense of QPR had they managed to rouse themselves and go on to snatch victory and glory at the last, as did Manchester City.
But instead, they barely threatened a Stoke side with nothing to play for but pride.
Bolton will give a heart-wrenching story of atrocious refereeing decisions having cost them their place in next season's Premier League—and to be fair, the first goal was clearly a foul on the goalkeeper Adam Bogdan, while the penalty was debatable at best—but Bolton have had more than their fair share of good fortune from the officials this season.
Who can forget Clint Hill's "ghost goal," the header which was several yards over the line against Bolton but wasn't seen or given by any of the officials?
It was not this game which saw Bolton get relegated.
The league season is 38 games long, and as the old adage goes, you get what you deserve at the end of it.
Four home wins at the Reebok Stadium all season long tells its own story, as does their dreadful tally of 77 goals conceded—only Blackburn and Wolves conceded more.
Manager Owen Coyle and Bolton in general have suffered from injuries this season, notably to Chung-Yong Lee and Stuart Holden, but they inadequately replaced the goals they lost from Daniel Sturridge and Johan Elmander last season with David Ngog and, in the January transfer window, young former Watford forward Marvin Sordell.
That their top two scorers for the season, Ivan Klasnic (9) and Kevin Davies (7) failed to reach double figures in all competitions combined speaks volumes for the lack of goal threat Bolton possessed, and neither of them were even in the first team picture for large spells of the season.
Adam Bogdan replaced veteran goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen as first-choice stopper, and while he possesses some promise, he is also painfully raw in some situations.
Gary Cahill's exit was not properly prepared for, and though he had a poor first half a season by his own high standards, Bolton never had a quality partner for him in defence and his replacement, Tim Ream, has been mediocre at best.
Owen Coyle was vaunted as a possible Liverpool target a year-and-a-half ago, but Bolton have endured such a miserable run of form since the turn of the year from 2009 to 2010 that it is hard to see where he goes from here with Bolton.
Let's put it into context: On New Year's Day, 2011, Bolton Wanderers lay in seventh place in the Premiership. They had won seven games from 21 and were 10 points clear of the drop zone, with some in the media eyeing them up for a Europa League challenge.
They finished the season 14th, having won just an additional five games over the rest of the season.
In the 14-month spell between January 2010 and now, Owen Coyle has guided Bolton to a mere 15 victories from 55 matches, racking up less than an average of one point-per-game in that time.
Where does Coyle go?
Surely the more pertinent question should be, will Bolton even want him to remain in place?
The Trotters, like local rivals Blackburn perhaps, have some big decisions to make this summer about planning for a quick return to the Premier League.
They are a decent-sized club, have been well-run for some years while in an eight-year spell in the Premier League and have a very good stadium.
But they have not shown themselves to be Premier League quality this season—and until that changes, there are plenty of other teams that England's top flight will welcome with open arms to replace them.
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